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Alaska 2004
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: April - August 2004, 6000 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Intent: Observe in wonder.
Copyright © 2004, P. Lutus. All rights reserved.

Hiking field Notes for Alaska and British Columbia, updated Summer 2004.
* Shearwater, B.C.:

Go into the boatyard near the marina, then move west and go up the hill. A trail, not easy to see from the boatyard, begins to make itself visible as you climb up. You will come to a gravel road, walk south. Croil Lake appears in the right of the road, along with a sign leading to the Eddie Lake trail. Visit Croil Lake, then notice that the trail continues.

The Eddie Lake trail is fairly long and can be very muddy at some times of year, wear appropriate shoes. It is quite enjoyable and there is not much climbing involved.

* Ketchikan, AK:

Rainbird. Go to roughly 55d 21.34m n, 131d 40.67m w on a college campus. Go north behind a maintenance shed, climb the hill on a reasonably well-marked trail, you will encounter a large flat trail that leads east (rainbird trail). There are some trails that branch off from this trail, that go up to a lookout and elsewhere (the latter not walked yet).

Carlanna Lake. Go to roughly 55d 21.34m n, 131d 41.61m w (Canyon road), this becomes an uphill gravel road leading to the lake. Supposedly, if you go to the east side of the lake and go uphill, you encounter a trail that ascends Minerva mountain, east of the lake (the latter not located or walked yet).

* Wrangell, AK:

Walk from the marina to the beach with the petroglyphs (NW of marina a couple of miles – walk near the beach). On the way back, move east into the woods and climb the ridge that lies directly north of the main part of town. The north face is rugged without much in the way of trails, but it affords a nice challenge, and a trail can be acquired from the top back into town on the south side. Watch out for the town dump located north of the ridge, it is an old-fashioned open dump with plenty of bears.

* Petersburg, AK:

Go to a gravel parking lot at 56d 48.19m n, 132d 55.72m w, near the east end of the airport runway, look for a sign for Raven's Roost Trail. Walk west along a gravel road, take the first left, walk south on another gravel road, watch for a trail sign on the right near a small building. Walk along a gravel path that becomes a wooden walkway through muskeg, now you are on the trail.

This is a fairly long trail, not terribly difficult, developed in places along its entire length (wooden walkways, staircases, etc.). It gradually rises about 1700 feet to a large muskeg meadow with a view of town, then it descends to the southwest of town alongside Wrangell Narrows. Be aware that the trail doesn't end on top, it continues, so you have to decide if you are going to return to your starting point or descend by a different route than you ascended.

A worthwhile hike, very pretty, and a walking staff is a good idea.

* Juneau/Perseverance trail:

Go to roughly 58d 18.38m n, 134d 25.1m w (Evergreen road), join Gold creek flume, a walkway on top of a water flume that bears NE. Join perseverance Trail at the end of the flume. This trail ascends into some pretty canyon areas, and Mt. Juneau Trail branches off to the left (west). Haven't walked Mt. Juneau Trail yet, but Perseverance is very nice.

* Juneau/Mount Roberts Trail

From the marina, travel to the top of sixth street in Juneau, notice the staircase — that is the trailhead. The old trail ascends directly from town, rather rough and wet in this part, and ascends to the top of the tram. Of course, no one would consider riding the tram instead. :)

Then the trail ascends a rocky ridge and comes out on a hilltop, where it forks. The right-hand trail goes to Mount Gastineau and then Mount Roberts, both very steep knife-edge ridges. The left-hand trail leads to Gold Ridge, a nicer destination for those not in the mood for a life-threatening experience. Gold Ridge affords nice views of town and the surrounding countryside.

Goal: Climb Gastineau Peak on a day with much less wind than you experienced this time.

* Juneau/Auke Bay (just north of Juneau)/Skating Cabin Trail

Travel from the marina along Mendenhall loop road, then to the west side of Mendenhall Lake. Note the historical cabin, marked “skating cabin.” The trail just north of the cabin is actually two trails, unmarked of course. One (the main trail) moves along the west side of Mendenhall Lake and then ascends into a wilderness to the northwest, becoming more and more ridiculously steep as it does. Once you are looking down on Mendenhall Glacier, you know you are on this trail.

To visit the glacier, on the other hand, watch for a shelter off the right-hand side of the trail well before you even approach the glacier. This shelter marks a second trail, one that descends to the shore of the lake, then ascends across a rocky ridge (with some very steep hand-and-foot rock climbing for a spell), then approaches the west side of Mendenhall Glacier. Pay particular attention to your return route as you travel on this trail, it is poorly marked and difficult to retrace until you have walked it several times (most Juneau locals have never seen it, and cannot locate it). Very pretty ice caves and overhangs, somewhat dangerous as well. A worthwhile hike.

* Cordova, AK:

This town has an excellent hiking trail (in fact, several). Go into town and locate (or ask directions to) the ski area. It's at the top of “ski hill road.” As you come to the top of the gravel road, near the base of the ski lift, a trail appears at the right, about 50 yards west of the ski lift line. Climb this trail. At the top of this trail are (1) the top of the ski lift, and (2) a relay station/antenna farm.

But this is just the beginning! To the north of the relay station is more trail, well-maintained and very interesting, moving at first along a saddle, through muskeg meadows and small ponds and lakes, very pretty country, leading up to a much higher peak that overlooks the town from the NE. Both the relay station and the higher peak are visible from the marina. Just look toward the NE, they are both in the same quadrant.

Another trail begins south of town at 60d 32.234m N, 145d 45.685m W, with a gated entrance to a gravel road with all sorts of warnings about “authorized personnel only,” apparently meant to discourage off-road vehicles. Hike up to a storage tank, take a trail to the left, pretty soon you will come up to a reservoir and a very pretty alpine meadow area. There are some mountains around the meadow, easy access, that should be nice hiking later in the summer (first hike was in May 2004, snowy and wet).

* PWS/Whittier

There are two trails here (more, actually). One, Horsetail Falls Trail, rises behind town, the other runs east to Shotgun Cove. I have only walked the first.

It is not easy to describe how to get to the Horsetail Falls Trail by way of city-style directions, just ask someone or go to 60d 46.346m n, 148d 40.627m w, near the trailhead. The first part of the trail is well-developed with wooden walkways, and ends on a nice hilltop with a view. But as is so often true in Alaska, there is much more of a hike beyond the end of the trail. The terrain is increasingly alpine beyond the end of the trail, eventually becoming a glacier. Very scenic and fun.

The second trail, to Shotgun Cove, begins as a gravel road in town and then becomes a footpath (reportedely, have not yet walked it). It sounds very promising.

* PWS/Galena Bay near Valdez

This trail runs between the lagoon at the east edge of Galena Bay and Silver Lake. This is a difficult trail, seven miles long, very challenging terrain, and at present (5/2003) it doesn't actually get to the lake.

Anchor at the east end of Galena Bay at 60d 56.229m n, 146d 36.065m w, at the entrance to the lagoon. Paddle into the lagoon (at low tide this requires some portage). Leave the boat at 60d 56.459m n, 146d 33.875m w and walk north, watching for orange plastic trail blazes on the trees (over time the bears tear down, then chew up, many of the plastic blazes). Join the trail when it is encountered. The trail at this stage follows the south side of Duck Creek, through some very rough terrain with plenty of bears (in late May 2003 there was fresh bear sign everywhere).

Near the lake there is a rope across the creek, too high to pass in the spring, that moves the trail from the south to the north side of the creek. This ford was not followed due to high water. I made my way up a ridge on the south side to a view of the lake and surrounding mountains, but it appears it would be very difficult to approach the lake from the south side.

This is a very difficult trail, and because this is a brown bear area one would be wise to carry bear defenses and be watchful. As mentioned above, there were fresh bear sign everywhere in the area. I met a bear hunter on the trail, and he said several bears had been killed in the immediate past. The trail is pretty in places, and is a rewarding experience in spite of everything.

* PWS/Naked Island

5-19-2004. Naked Island, more or less in the middle of PWS, is sufficiently remote from the mainland that there appears to be few/no bears, also the hiking is relatively easy – a reasonable percentage of muskeg meadows, though not as open as some of the hikes on Perry Island. A nice goal for the summer would be to climb the peak on the east side of the island, 1235' high, located at 60d 38.794' N, 147d, 20.712' W, where a relay station is located. There are no really established trails, but the terrain is sufficiently open that making one's own trail is easy. Avoid Bass Harbor in any south semicircle weather – also it gets constant ocean swell, even with no wind.

* PWS/Perry Island

Anchor at about 60d 43.3m N, 147d 56.6m W, in a cove on the west side of the east bay of the island. This anchorage is a little rough in west wind because of low terrain to the west. The bearings for the following two hikes are in reference to this anchorage.

Hike #1: An east-west ridge south of the anchorage, much more difficult to walk than it appears from the anchorage. Hike west at low elevation nearly across the width of the island in mostly muskeg meadows, then turn south when possible to ascend the east-west ridge at its lowest point. Then hike east to climb the ridge. Very irregular, difficult terrain on top, nice views. Most of the hike is in meadows with a small amount of brush near the shore and in the ascent. Be sure to follow your outbound course exactly on the return, there are many vertical rock faces in this area, easily seen from below but not at all from above.

Hike #2: For the most part, an easy, gradual ascent in meadows to the NW of the anchorage, rising gradually to several peaks with nice views, total climb about 800 feet. This is one of the least brushy hikes in the entire area, and with many ponds and nice meadows would be a great introduction to PWS hiking for a newcomer. Near the top, things become more complicated and one would be wise to mark one's route to avoid difficulties on the descent.

* PWS/Cascade Bay, in Eaglek Bay East of Whittier

Cascade bay has a nice waterfall. The entrance has a glacial moraine that is very shallow (as in ten feet at low tides), in fact I think this bay was probably a lagoon before the 1964 earthquake. Enter very carefully.

There is a lake that feeds the waterfall, and there is a trail to the lake. Looking at the chart one might think that simply crossing the ridge will lead to the lake, and although this is true, it is a much greater altitude gain than is necessary. Instead, go to the beach that is SW of the falls, beach the dinghy, and walk north, staying near shore. Enter a canyon with some muskeg meadows, and a trail will appear that goes up to the falls and the lake.

BUT! To see more lake, the north side of the lake looks better (not as steep, affording more chances to walk a good distance along the shore). Looking from the south side of the lake, it became obvious that the north side would have been a better goal. Try to find a trail on the east side of the falls next time. The distances are not great, but the terrain can be challenging.

Anchor in front of a bight across from the falls, there is an uncharted shallow spot well offshore that must be sought out, and with reasonable holding (60d 54.84m n 147d 48.27m w). There are what appear to be lion's mane jellyfish in this bay, so no swimming or falling out of boats.

* PWS/Bainbridge Island/No-Name Bay

There is an unnamed bay on the southeast of Bainbridge Passage, anchor at about 60d 7.45m N, 148d 6.71m W, this is a sheltered spot in 5 fathoms, almost in the mouth of a river that leads to a lake. Paddle in along the river until you get to a suitable place to hike, with muskeg meadows in view on the south side of the river, then beach the dinghy. Hike generally SSW to get to the lake or to ascend to the higher terrain. There is a nice peak at about 1500 feet, or, if there is less snow than I found (late June), one can ascend higher by crossing an alpine meadow to another, higher peak. There are black bears in this neighborhood, but they don't seem particularly aggressive, at least in June.

There is another pleasant hike east of this anchorage, on the ridge that separates Bainbridge Passage and Prince of Wales Passage to the east. The ridge ascends about 700 feet and the top of the ridge is an easy walk, mostly muskeg, but ascending to the ridge is sometimes difficult.

Yet another hike for the future is to beach the dinghy southeast of the boat and hike generally SSE to ascend by a different route, one with less brush. This route was first seen once I had climbed the peak to the SW, and is not clearly visible from the anchorage. The route has more and larger muskeg meadows than the other routes and reasonable terrain for climbing.

* PWS/Cochrane Bay/Three Fingers Trail

A very nice trail, emanating from a very nice anchorage (the easternmost of three connected bays at Three Fingers Cove). The trail goes to a publicly maintained wilderness cabin at Shrode Lake. It is very pretty, not difficult, one river needs to be forded in a wide, shallow passage (knee-deep). Be sure to explore the area at the end of this trail next time – visit Lake Jack and/or Long Bay, both destinations accessible from the Shrode Lake cabin.

* PWS/Granite Bay. No name mountain south of inside anchorage, whose peak is located at 52d 16m n, 148d 3.51m w.

Very nice view of western PWS, easy to walk on top, mostly granite, little vegetation. A rewarding climb.

Route 1 (7/8/2003): For my first climb of this mountain (no name, 1700 feet) I approached from the north (the main Granite Bay anchorage), then ascended with difficulty through muskeg and brushy areas to get above the tree line, then walked along a ridge that ascends to the peak from the NW. This specific approach was terrible for a bunch of reasons, mostly the requirement to bushwhack long stretches at the lower elevations, so this approach is not recommended for the future. Next time, consider an approach from the SW, where there are approaches across some large smooth slabs of granite beginning at a low elevation, and little obstructing brush (the rock might be dicey on a wet day). Overall a great opportunity to ascend above the typical Alaska brushy terrain on a route mostly of rock (if the right approach is chosen).

Route 2 (7/1/2004): I decided my first route was unnecessarily difficult, so I anchored west of the mountain in a small, sheltered anchorage at about 60d 52.94m N, 148d 5.60m W, where a buoy is marked on the chart (but is not present any more). The holding is not very good in this location, but with patience one can anchor securely.

This second route was easier, more muskeg meadows along the way and less steep climbing, but there is a problem – there is a climbable notch along the way in an otherwise very steep, rocky face that can be seen from below but cannot be seen from above. Be SURE to flag this notch on the way up, and be SURE to follow the exact same route on the way down. Otherwise, by descending along a seemingly natural route, one gradually approaches a semicircular sheer bluff.

Route 3 (7/6/2004): This is a route that is in all ways better than those described above, consisting of a gradual rocky ramp, relatively clear of brush, that ascends from the SW of the mountain. Begin at the small anchorage SW of the mountain, enter into the little valley that lies SW of the mountain, circle around a small lake, then make your way to a rocky ramp NE of the lake that ascends to the ridge leading to the peak. This route frees one from the insect-infested brush quicker than any route yet tried, and it is easier than the other approaches. Because of the presence of many abrupt drop-offs visible only from below, this route also must be marked during the climb and the inbound route must be matched during the descent.

* Blue Fox Bay, Afognak Island, AK

To the west of Blue Fox Bay is a multiple-peak mountain named “Devil's Paw”. There is a trail leading from Blue Fox Bay west, up to the high country and to any of the peaks one cares to challenge. Part of the trail is steep and challenging — a hiking staff or ski pole is almost a must for the steepest parts. Enter Blue Fox Bay, go to the south end, find the shelter cabin (not private property) at the west side of the south end. The trail begins about 100 meters north of the cabin, at a tree that extends out on the beach. The trail is not marked but is relatively easy to follow.

There are bears in this neighborhood. Some fresh bear scat appeared within two hours between my ascent and descent, and for all I know it was left by a bear that was stalking me. And, from the evidence of one scat pile, they're big bears, Kodiak bears. Didn't actually see any bears, but the evidence left little to the imagination.

There is a great view from the top of the north peak of Devil's Paw, but on revisiting this site, it seems the south peak is much easier to climb and affords terrific views also.

* An unnamed island in front of the Geographic Harbor entrance, west of Kodiak Island on the Alaska Peninsula.

This island lies east of Takli, the main island lying in front of the entrance to Geographic Harbor. Anchor on the north side near a sandy beach – best on days with SW wind. Allow two or more hours for a full exploration. There is bear sign in various places, so this is not a bear-free zone as one might expect. There is an old native camp with obsidian chips that has been explored by one or more professionals (numbered obsidian pieces on the ground, a screened protective frame over a site of particular interest).

Obviously there are any number of islands to choose from, but this one is not particularly hilly, it is not sufficiently brushy as to impede hiking, and it's just the right size for a relatively brief exploration. And it is very pretty. A nice stopoff in the event that the current is running strong in the entrance to Geographic Harbor.


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